Skip to Main Content


  • Article
    Think of your favorite destination downtowns. What do they have in common? see more

    We call this the 7-8-7 rule because of the three most important statistics that make a downtown a successful and vibrant destination. Think of your favorite destination downtowns. Are they beautiful? Do they feel safe? Are there things to do after 6:00 pm?

    1. 70% of first-time sales at restaurants, retail shops, lodging facilities, and attractions can come from curb appeal. Travelers often use these phrases: “That looks like a nice place to eat.” or “That looks like a nice place to stay.” Virtually every person on the planet has said those words at least once, if not dozens of times. You can spend millions of dollars marketing a town or downtown, and none of that will make me—the visitor—walk through your shop’s door. You, the merchant, must do that. Beautification, or curb appeal, will always be an investment with a tremendous return.

    2. Women account for 80% of all consumer spending. Yes, it’s true. I use this statistic a lot in speaking engagements, and I always pause to hear the audience reaction, which ranges from “You go girl!” spoken by women, to “That’s all?” from the guys. Women will spend more money in places that look inviting, are clean, and feel safe. If you cater to women you will ultimately win the entire family’s business. Women also account for 70% of all travel decisions including places to stay and eat, and “must see” attractions.

    3. 70% of all consumer retail spending takes place after 6:00 pm. Are you open? This is one of the reasons downtowns are dying – they’re not competing with malls’ later hours. In the 60s, stores typically closed at 6:00 pm, 5:00 on Saturdays, and were closed on Sundays. In the 70s malls were open until 8:00 or 9:00 pm, but still closed at 6:00 on Saturdays and were open from noon to 5:00 on Sundays. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find just about every successful mall opening at 10:00 and staying open until 9:00 (or later) seven days a week. Meanwhile, traditional downtowns are stuck in the 1960s, and most are dying.

    While we are moving to the European standard of dining and shopping later in the evenings, downtowns haven’t made the change at all.

    Let me know what changes you are making in your downtown!

  • Downtown beautification is a VERY important piece of the puzzle to a successful downtown. However... see more

    Recently our team was secret-shopping the town of Vernal in Northeastern Utah, using our popular Destination Assessment program. Vernal is near the incredible Wall of Bones National Monument in the heart of Utah’s dinosaur country. As we approached downtown, we saw that Main Street was lined with large aggregate planters every ten feet, overflowing with bright, colorful petunias. Plus, there were hanging baskets all along the street, also overflowing with the gorgeous blooms. It was such a spectacular sight that many locals drive up and down Main Street just to enjoy the flowers. Of course, we did too. 

    As we drove down Main Street, we saw that behind all those gorgeous planters, the retail spaces were mostly vacant. In fact, we saw very few people walking along the sidewalks. There were one or two great shops and eateries that looked attractive, but for the most part, downtown was empty. The city had done their best to make downtown beautiful, but the property owners have done little or nothing to capitalize on the city’s investment.

    Consider Carnegie Hall. It is one of the most beautiful and renowned concert halls in North America, with ornate frescoes adorning the walls and ceiling, magnificent chandeliers, gorgeous draperies, stunning sets, and velvet covered seats. Magnificent.

    But here’s the million-dollar question: No matter how beautiful Carnegie Hall is, would you go there if there were nothing happening on the stage? And if you would be willing to go once, just to see it, would you want to come back again with no performance to see?

    Many cities spend millions, even tens of millions of dollars, to make their downtowns beautiful, and then find that even though their efforts resulted in a beautiful space, downtown is still dead—void of activity and commerce.

    It’s what’s IN the buildings that The job was only half done. A downtown needs the right business mix. If you don’t “orchestrate” the business mix, working with your property owners and downtown businesses to draw customers makes your downtown an attraction—the rest is window dressing. in their doors, then your beautiful streetscapes are a waste of money. They won’t increase property values, retail sales and services, or make downtown the place people want to spend time—and money. It’s lipstick on a pig, and that’s not how you revitalize a downtown.

    Here are the three primary steps to turning your downtown into a thriving destination for locals and visitors alike:

    1. Decide what you want the focus of downtown to . If you want it to be about kids and family, then where do you place the carousel? What about interactive water features? A splash pad? Plus the supporting retail shops and eateries that cater to families. If, on the other hand, you want downtown’s focus to be about nightlife and entertainment, where are the micro-brews, the eateries with live music, the performing arts venues, street music and vendors?be
    2. Next up, what will it look like? Now that you know what the focus of downtown is, it’s important to make it look like that. This is your programming and streetscape plan.
    3. Finally, you MUST work with your property owners and businesses to make sure you have the business mix that will solidify your “brand”—your downtown focus. What do you need to include downtown that will make you THE destination for your particular audience? This is the business mix that will cater to the primary audience you’re attracting downtown, for example, toy stores and children’s clothing shops for a family focus.

    The bottom line is that a streetscape, by itself, is not enough to revitalize a downtown. Don’t get me wrong, though, downtown beautification is VERY important as one piece of the puzzle to a successful downtown. You won’t find a bigger proponent for beautification than me!

    BUT beatification, by itself, will not succeed in revitalizing a downtown. The buildings need to be full of a great business mix. But if you love dinosaurs and want to see and touch dinosaur bones as they were discovered in the ground, Vernal should be on the very top of your list—it’s an amazing destination. While there, be sure to enjoy Main Street in all its flowering glory—and hopefully, the property owners will finish the other half of the job: orchestrating and recruiting a successful business mix.


    - Roger Brooks

     September 25, 2018
  • What is the first impression you give to visitors when they come into town? see more

    Gateway Signs are road signs that border your community or downtown district and introduce and welcome visitors. They are typically placed at the city or county limits and, more often than not, are in locations that offer a less-than desirable first impression of the community. When we see that sign, we’re going to judge you by what we see around it, and just after it. What does that “first impression” say about you?


    Rule: Put your gateway signs where you will make the best first impression. Rarely is that at your city limits.

    Have you ever wondered why residential sub-division developers spend so much money on their entrances? Look at the photo below. Are you thinking “Oh, another mobile home park”?




    Probably not. But let’s address WHY they would spend this kind of money on an elaborate gateway when they are in the business of selling lots or homes. Signs like this:

    • Create a sense of place and quality—you obviously didn’t think was a mobile home park.

    • Creates pride of ownership. When you come home, you’re proud to live here.

    • Gets your attention as you drive by—and that sells real estate faster.

    • Conveys the community’s image—a high-quality place to live.

    • Increases property value—it elevates your “perceived value” of the lots and homes here.

    • It helps the community stand out from others.

    Every single one of these reasons applies to your community gateways signs. They don’t have to be expensive, as in this example, but they do need to be attractive, well maintained, large enough to make a statement about you, and introduce the community as a great location where the response is automatic: “Wow. This is a nice place!”

    And, by the way, these rules also apply to all of you in business. Your business sign is your best introduction to potential customers. Make it count!